The shade and the super-human

A date has been set for the first group: Monday 27th January at my kids’ favourite juice spot, Phlox on Francis Road in Leyton. That being the case, the worrying and self-doubt can really begin in earnest. Who in the name of Danny Dyer’s ghost writer do I think I am, starting a writer’s group in this creative enclave? In my first post I talked about the two inner voices that dictate my approach and reaction to writing: one a swaggering, lesser-spotted super-human, safe in the knowledge of his own talent; the other an anxiety-ridden shade of a man who can’t write so much as a sentence without doubting his right to exist. Can either of these clowns organise a writer’s group?

The template for the group, the thing that makes me sure it could be a worthwhile use of everyone’s time, is a creative writing course I took at uni over 200 years ago (sic). I had no idea what I was doing or applying for when I went through the UCAS process; no clue what I wanted to do with my life or how anything I applied for would help me get there. I had recently quit an Art foundation course. I’d given it a try but found that a skill for drawing that was impressive as a kid had not really developed into my teenage years, my long-held and thinly thought-through ambition to be a graphic designer slowly dissolving in the face of this cold hard truth. One day I found myself with a carved potato in each hand, using them to print a pattern, and realised I hadn’t come very far in my artistic vision.

So it was time to rethink. I knew I liked films and writing so I coveted a spot on the then one-of-a-kind BA Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth. The word on the street was that completing this degree all but guaranteed you a bash at writing for The Bill. (Younger readers, The Bill was a TV police soap, kind of like that Line of Duty you’re obsessed with but much more classy and with a hypnotic end credit crawl involving a pair of shoes walking endlessly away into the distance.)

I didn’t make the cut, and instead took Film and English Studies at UEA, picking my way through densely-written cultural theory and highly entertaining film studies courses with titles like ‘Bangy Crashy Smashy: Action Cinema and the contemporary male’. As an option I took Creative Writing (unaware, naive as I was, of my close proximity to the MA Creative Writing Course, supposedly one of the best in this or any country), and found the promise of a guaranteed supportive but critical audience was just what it took to give me the push to write. They were short pieces produced as homework and read and dissected at each seminar. Receiving positive comments in these sessions served to assuage the fears of my anxious inner shade, while criticism kept the super-human from attempting world domination. I can only remember one of the actual exercises the tutor gave us, but I’m going to use it for the first session.

So the next post will include this exercise as well as my own response to it. Anyone who wants to come to the group with some writing and doesn’t have any current irons in the fire can, if they wish, write their own response and bring it along.

Oh God, I have to write something now…


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